I have been working on a series of posts about morality for a while now. In some previous posts I talked about the following:
- The human perception of morality is not rationally justifiable and can’t be justified without an appeal to some supernatural Something-Like-God.
- That any attempt to explain objective morality will always end up being a religion, for religions are what you get when you assume morality to be objective and then come up with an explanation of how that can be.
In one of my older posts I mentioned in passing that morality is (almost) always non-personal and is perceived as applying to everyone. In fact, it so strongly applies to everyone that it even applies to people long dead.
The perception that morality applies to everyone has a side effect that I didn’t mention at the time. It’s that morality and coercion are deeply intertwined. In fact, the moral idea of deserts seems to be the link between morality and coercion.
What is coercion? It’s sometimes an ill-defined concept. Clearly use of violence or threat of violence qualifies as coercion in our minds – though sometimes we perceive such coercion as moral, such as locking up criminals. And since laws and governments are based on threat of violence, all laws are by definition coercion after a fashion – if perhaps a legal and acceptable variety. But the reason we see that sort of coercion as “correct” is precisely because we perceive laws as moral and law-breaking as immoral.
I have wondered about Dan Cathy, who recently made statements against gay marriage and soon found that Joe Moreno, in the local government, was going to use the threat of government power to not let him open a store in Chicago unless Cathy retracted his statement. Since this was coming from a government, was that then a violence based form of coercion? Whether it was or not, I’m sure it was done because Moreno honestly believed it was justified by the demands of morality. Moreno honestly believed morality empowered him to use such coercion because Cathy “deserved it” so to speak. 
In fact, we tend to think of any sort of attempt to influence us that was unwanted as “coercive” don’t we? We feel that way even if there is not the slightest hint of violence or threat of violence.
If the Bloggernacle drops a blog from their feed because they disliked the content of a post, the person cries out “coercion!” If the Church asks a practicing-but-not-believing member to stop publishing anti-Mormon material, the cry of “coercion” is not far behind. If you get “Bloggernacled” (dog piled in comments) as a way of socially controlling what is “acceptable to say” on the Bloggernacle, you probably feel like coercion has been used against you. If you try to talk about the pros and cons of gay marriage and you get labeled as a homophobe you feel rather “coerced.” And if the Church withholds a Temple Recommend because you didn’t pay your Tithing, the charge of “mandatory Tithing” and “coercion” will so follow.
Those last examples show that we see “coercion” as immoral, yet we specifically feel coercion is okay if it was “deserved” due to a moral infraction.
This “impulse” to see coercion as simultaneously “immoral” and also “demanded by morality” (i.e. deserts) is so strong within us, that if we do use coercion on someone — of any kind, violent or non-violent — we are forced to rationalize that it was for a moral reason (i.e. they deserved it), thereby reframing the coercion as having been demanded by morality.
Further, as I pointed out in this post morality is specifically only things we feel apply to everyone. A “personal morality” is an aberration to how we think of morality. Morality is what applies to other people, or in other words it’s a social requirement, not (generally) a personal one. (By this I mean it governs interpersonal conduct, not conduct unrelated to interpersonal conduct. Or at least that is almost always true, with occasional exceptions.)
It is therefore possible to define morality as that which we feel we can coerce each other over.
Now this is where the idea of morality being a delusion (or constructed) starts to become uncomfortable. Sure, we can probably find ways to advance moral relativism as an alternative to objective morality. And some moral relativists even argue that there might be some benefits to doing so in some cases, as with this post here about animal rights. By rephrasing morality as talk about harm or help, we even might gain insights into situations where we are clearly just being circular in our moral judgments.
But none of that helps us with the fact that morality is explicitly linked to coercion. How can we adjudicate between correct and incorrect forms of coercion if there is no objective morality?
And let’s face it, all ideologies moralize their position. That is to say, all ideologies that we as humans fight over — whether religion, philosophy, or politics — are all specifically moral ideologies.
Which means that anyone we disagree with on a moral issue will always believe they are the moral ones — the ones justified by using coercion — and it’s the “other guys” that deserve the coercion.
Of course we should always try to work out our moral differences by talking them out and finding appropriate compromises – though to be honest, such compromises often abound and we refuse to consider them.
But what if we can find no compromise? There is no reason, really, (outside of a pure non-rational faith that is) to believe that compromises will always exist. So what if we know all the same facts, agree on everything, but just don’t agree on what is moral and what is not?
How do we then adjudicate between the two equally subjective and equally delusional moral worldviews?
If morality really is subjective and a delusion, then it seems obvious that the only possible way to adjudicate between two equally subjective (and delusional) moral views is through might makes right.
Or in other words through coercion.
 The issue of civil rights was also under consideration — you can’t refuse to serve a person because of their sexual orientation. However, that never seems to have actually been a consideration in Moreno’s decision. What really seems to have been at stake was both Cathy making a public statement against gay marriage and also giving money to charities that opposed gay marriage.